Russian finance minister to quit if Medvedev becomes PM

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Russia's long-serving Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Sunday he will not serve in a new government if President Dmitry Medvedev becomes prime minister in a Vladimir Putin presidency in 2012.

"I do not see myself in the new government. It's not just that nobody offered me anything. I think that the differences that I have will not allow me to be in this government," Russian news agencies quoted Kudrin as saying.

Kudrin, who has served as finance minister since 2000, is the most senior official to have broken ranks with Saturday's announcement by Medvedev that he intends to surrender the Kremlin to Putin in 2012 elections and instead serve afterwards as prime minister.

The finance minister is seen as one of the more liberal voices in the cabinet and in February annoyed some of his colleagues by stating that only "honest" elections would provide the mandate to carry out economic reform.

Kudrin, currently in Washington for meetings of G20 finance ministers, stated simply that he "unconditionally refused" to serve in a government under Medvedev.

He publicly revealed for the first time that he had a "number of differences with Medvedev on economic policy."

Kudrin, a well-known fiscal hawk, said that these differences involved a massive ramping up of military spending on everything from hardware to pensions.

"This will create additional risks for the budget and the economy. This will mean we will not be able to cut the deficit," he said.

He added such high spending would also force Russia to retain its dependence on oil exports, meaning that the economy could hit trouble if the price of crude falls.

"This dependence is going to be maintained which is risky for our economy," said Kudrin.

Some analysts have speculated that Kudrin himself could have become prime minister given his much-admired guidance of the Russian economy for almost the entire period that Putin has been in power.

Also dissenting from Saturday's historic announcement was Medvedev's chief economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich, who declared on Twitter that "there is no cause for joy," and it was a "good time to switch over to a sports channel."

© 2011 AFP

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